Sharapova survives as upsets rock the US Open
By Rebecca Bryan, AFP
August 31, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
NEW YORK--World number two Simona Halep and two-time champion Venus Williams tumbled out of the U.S. Open on Friday, but Maria Sharapova bucked the upset trend that rocked the women's draw.
Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, a former phenom now a 32-year-old veteran who had to fight through qualifying, shocked second-seeded Halep, the French Open runner-up, 7-6 (8/6), 6-2.
"It's incredible, amazing, I feel goofy," said Lucic-Baroni, who reached a Grand Slam fourth round for the first time since making it to the 1999 Wimbledon semifinals as a 17-year-old.
The reward for the 121st-ranked Lucic-Baroni is a fourth-round meeting with 13th-seeded Italian Sara Errani, who thwarted Williams 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (7/5).
At the other end of the age spectrum, Swiss 17-year-old Belinda Bencic toppled sixth-seeded German Angelique Kerber 6-1, 7-5.
Bencic, the 2013 Wimbledon and French Open junior champion, now ranked 58th in the world, earned a meeting with former world number one Jelena Jankovic, a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Sweden's Johanna Larsson.
After dropping the lopsided first set, Kerber appeared poised to knot the match, but she couldn't convert three set points.
Bencic, coached by former Swiss great Martina Hingis' mother Melanie Molitor, seized her chance.
"It's amazing that after last year I played juniors here, and this year I'm in the fourth round," Bencic said. "So it's incredible."
The last Grand Slam of the year has now lost four of its top 10 women's seeds, after the second-round departures of Agnieszka Radwanska and Ana Ivanovic.
Errani Holds off Venus
Errani's triumph over 19th-seeded Williams wasn't strictly speaking an upset, but the 13th-seeded Italian had to dig deep to notch her first career victory over the American after three defeats.
"I know that was a really tough match, even if I won the first set 6-0 she's an amazing player," Errani said.
And as she expected, seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams battled back, racing through the second set to set up a third that turned into a slugfest.
Williams twice came back from a break down in the third, then broke Errani to serve for the match at 5-3.
She couldn't hang on, however, surrendering her serve as they battled to the tiebreaker, in which Errani took a 5-2 lead only for Williams to battle back to 5-5 before at last succumbing.
Errani was thrilled by the electric atmosphere in the Ashe stadium, even though she knew the frantic fans were for her opponent.